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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Father of Elizabeth Smart: Victims Often Manipulated; Connection Between Possible Kidnappers & Hostage's Family; Three Men in Custody in Ohio Abduction

Aired May 7, 2013 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. We're tracking breaking news from Cleveland this morning -- three women found alive after a decade, a decade, disappearing without a trace. They're of the out of the hospital this morning; they're out of the hospital and have been returned to their families. Three brothers suspected of kidnapping and holding them captive are in police custody awaiting charges this morning.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Cleveland with more.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Authorities have closed off the street now in front of the home where these three women apparently were held for up to a decade or more. It's believed that what's going to happen as they push the media away is that more investigative teams are going to come in -- not just local authorities now, but we're also being told that federal authorities are actively taking a part in this investigation.

The real question here is were those three women the only victims? Could there be other victims? Could there be other missing people's cases that somehow are connected to that innocent-looking house behind us here? They don't know.

It's also being said that dogs are going to be brought in to search a nearby vacant lot. What connection or why? Again, authorities aren't saying.

But in the meantime, there's a the lot of celebration. The fact that these three women who when they were abducted were teenagers have been found alive and well goes against most of the odds and most of the thoughts of people who had searched for them for so many years. They are in the process of being reunited with their families. Three suspects are in custody.

The questions as to where the case turns next, well, there are a lot of them. And right now they are just beginning that investigation.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Cleveland.

ROMANS: Our thanks to Martin there. So let's talk more about this with Ed Smart. He's the father of Elizabeth Smart. Elizabeth was kidnapped in June of 2002 and was found nine months later. So you have a very unique perspective here. What are these girls going to be going through?

ED SMART, FATHER OF RESCUED ABDUCTEE ELIZABETH SMART: You know, I think they are going to be trying to find their new place. I'm sure that they wonder how they're going to be accepted by their families and how they're going to move forward and what does this mean to the people that kidnapped them?

But to be free at this point is just -- I mean, three miracles. What a wonderful opportunity for them to be reunited with their family. I remember when I said to Elizabeth, I said, "Did you ever think that you would get away?" And she said, "Yes, Dad, but I didn't know if it would be years down the road."

So here we are with three women who have been away from their families for a significant period of time. And I hope they have a chance to just kind of stepping back from the media and rebonding with their families and finding their new place in life.

ROMANS: You know, Ed, it's interesting. We were speaking with John Walsh earlier. He said his advice in these cases, when we're so lucky to have someone who has been kidnapped found alive, is to -- exactly what you're saying -- enjoy the homecoming, but there's hard work as you unpeel that onion of the horrors that happened over those months and years.

What's your advice to these families? You think they should stay out of the media spotlight and they need significant counseling? What would you say from your experience is the most important piece of advice you can give?

SMART: You know, I think that one of the most important things are we have no idea what these women went through. But it's so important for them to know that what happened to them was not their fault. Usually their captors make them feel some type of guilt, some type of responsibility. Heaven only knows what kind of nightmare they have lived for the past ten years.

But that this was a segment in their life and they have their entire lives in front of them. And, you know, to make sure that justice does occur, that these kidnappers don't have the opportunity of doing this again to somebody else. But that their life is in front of them; put this behind and move forward. And I hope that they just have a wonderful time with their families.

I will never forget having Elizabeth home. How much -- we got up that night and tried to -- we were pinching ourselves is this real? Is Elizabeth there? And her comment to us, you know, "Mom and Dad, I'll be here in the morning." You know, how those families must be rejoicing and what a blessing, an absolute blessing, for them to be back with their families. SAMBOLIN: I want to talk about judgments because this is something your daughter did experience, and you talked about it. You said that people can say things like, "Why don't these girls run away?" Even though they are scared for their life.

So talk to us about that and how you helped Elizabeth cope with folks who had that mentality.

SMART: You know, there are a the lot of comments that can be made about them. You know, why was this the first time? Why didn't they get away before? But really when you find out what kind of manipulation -- and usually it is pure manipulation -- by the captors with the survivor or victim, it is so important to understand that they did not choose to have this happen, but the fact that they would try to say, you know, I'm going to kill you, I'm going to kill your family, and put that responsibility on them to control them. And that is something that is horrendous.

I've heard over the years people say, well, they were out in the parking lot riding their bike or they were doing this or doing that. Why didn't they scream? Why didn't they get away? And the fact remains that they were definitely being controlled.

I mean, in Elizabeth's case, there were times when Elizabeth was faced -- you know, here a police officer is right in front of her. She's being held by the hand and has been previously not only threatened but brought back and "If you try this, I'm going to kill you. I have people out there that are going to get your family." And the manipulation of these predators is amazing. And to think that here Elizabeth is standing in front of this police officer and during the testimony of the trial this police officer said, "Well, I probably would have done the same thing if this happened all over the again." They are absolute amazing manipulators in how they can talk their way out of situations.

So I think that it's important to understand that what has happened to these three women was not their fault. There needs to be this unconditional love and consideration for them. Give them the space to reunite with their families and to try find that new normal in life.

ROMANS: Elizabeth must be aware of this story, I'm sure, because it is such a big story and something that happened to her. How is she feeling about this?

SMART: You know, just thrilled. I mean, to hear that three more young women have been found, they are back with their families, to know they are no longer being held by these monsters. You know, it's a wonderful thing.

ROMANS: Ed Smart, we're so glad you can bring us your wisdom and your perspective this morning. Such a big story out of Cleveland. You're coming to us from Salt Lake City. Thank you, Ed.

SMART: You bet.

SAMBOLIN: We're waiting for the press conference to happen at 9:00 Eastern. We're going to bring it to you live here on CNN, also on CNN.com. So stay tuned for that.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, now that those three women are finally free, back home with their families, what happens next? We're going to talk more with former "America's Most Wanted" host, John Walsh. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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SAMBOLIN: Back to our top story. Three women finally back with their families this morning after being held in captivity for ten years. We're going to continue our conversation with John Walsh; he is the former host of "America's Most Wanted" and an advocate for missing children. His own son, Adam, was abducted and murdered back in 1981.

Thank you for staying with us this morning. We really appreciate it. I want to talk about the connection between families, because there are reports that Gina DeJesus's family knew Ariel Castro's family and Ariel Castro's son even wrote an article about Gina DeJesus's kidnapping way back when it happened. The son was quoted by a KWYC TV reporter yesterday as saying about this situation, and I'm quoting here, "This is beyond comprehension. I'm truly stunned right now." Ariel Anthony Castro -- I'm sorry. So that was his son, who said he was stunned by this.

How often do you see a connection between the families?

JOHN WALSH, FORMER HOST, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": Well, it's not unusual. I'm sure that this guy, as it has been reported, that they lived in the same area. This guy is a musician. He knew the family and he probably ran across this beautiful girl and became obsessed with her.

I have done tons of cases where people see a child that they like or the color hair is right or the age is right or the sex is right and they became that child's stalker-abductor and become obsessed with him. And I'm sure his son is appalled.

Everybody, from the parents of Jeffrey Daumer, wrote me one time because Daumer was a suspect in Adam's abduction and murder for about five minutes. It took 27 years to solve that case. It was a serial rapist and pedophile by the name of Otis Toole who died in prison, but Daumer's parents called and said, "We are so sorry our son turned out to be such a horrible, horrible person."

And I'm sure this boy that wrote the article years ago was hoping that this girl particularly, Gina DeJesus, would be found alive. I imagine right now he's going through hell and thinking could my father and my uncles be the kidnappers and jailers of these people? I'm sure he can't even fathom it.

ROMANS: I want to play something for you. We talked to a neighbor, somebody who has known Ariel Castro, the owner of that home since 1992. He's known him for 18 years. You made a really good point, John, when you said that these kind of guys are not in a trench coat underneath a bridge somewhere. They are living in your neighborhood. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ISRAEL LUGO, NEIGHBOR OF SUSPECT ARIEL CASTRO: I've been here 33 years and it's like -- I knew the guy for 18 years. And that would be the last thing we would expect somebody are in our neighborhood. We're like a big old family right here. And -- and for him to drive a school bus parking on the side of the road every day for three hours, we never thought that, you know what I'm saying.

The only thing it comes down to is that these girls are going home safe and back for Mother's Day and it's a good thing we just wanted to see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: What do you think about that characterization of the neighbor? I mean he did have trash bags over his window. We never would have suspected it, but he did have trash bags over his windows.

WALSH: Absolutely. Remember Ted Bundy? Everybody said oh what charming, wonderful guy, he's a handsome guy. Almost all except one of the women -- I think he murdered 29 women were listed as runaways. Not one of them was runaway. People that knew Ted Bundy said oh he can't be a serial killer. Je helps people. He's in the community.

I mean these guys hide in plain sight. The first guy I caught on "America's Most Wanted", Brian David Mitchell raped 17 women and got out of prison on parole and while he was out he killed four people, two of them small children. I'll never forget him. He was the first capture on "America's Most Wanted."

And when we caught him he was on the FBI's ten most wanted. He escaped from five life sentences in Indiana. Guess what he was doing? He was running a shelter for the homeless on Staten Island. A sociopathic, rapist, murderer was hiding in plain sight running a shelter for the homeless.

I don't know why people are so surprised. These guys know what they do is so reprehensible that society hates them so much and they are so sociopathic that they function like nothing is wrong and people buy it.

SAMBOLIN: There are reports that one of the girls was finishing her shift and she called home and said look somebody is going to pick me up. And you know it ended up being an older gentleman they said that she got into the car with. How often are -- are these abductors people that these children know?

WALSH: Many, many times. You know, I said earlier that 80 percent of crimes against children are perpetrated by the trusted authority figure -- the soccer coach, the football coach, the Jerry Sanduskys, the Catholic priests. People can't believe it. And they're people that have access to these children. And I'm sure that she probably thought "Hey, I'm getting a ride home from somebody that's in my community. I don't need a ride, mom." She didn't know that she was going to ten years imprisonment by a pervert who lived down the street.

But you know it's -- it's not unusual. These guys are manipulators. They are good at it. Kids are trusting.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

WALSH: I don't care how sophisticated they are, kids are trusting especially when they think, well, I sort of know the guy.

ROMANS: What do you tell your kids John? What do you tell I mean, this is a parent's worst nightmare, what do you tell -- what do you tell your kids to do if someone tries to take them, even someone they know?

WALSH: Well first of all, fighting is the good thing. I don't think that (AUDIO GAP 0840, 07:58) chance to get away from this guy or -- or Gina.

I -- I just think that, you know, they have the lures. Everybody knows about I lost, the lost puppy -- help me et cetera. You really have to sit down with your children. You have to say this is 2013, There's bad guys out there.

ROMANS: Yes.

WALSH: Here's the rules. It's the buddy system. If you're scared, call 911. If you're nervous, don't be afraid to make that call. Don't get in a car. If somebody grabs you, fight the guy right there. Start screaming or you're going to wind up in a house for ten years.

ROMANS: Yes.

WALSH: Or maybe worst and wind up dead. There's so many things to do. I'm involved with a wonderful company called Great Call. They have a five star button, a safety device that you can hit and it'll -- it's a two-way -- you can talk back and forth two ways. They have trained operators. I just think that people don't believe it could happen to them.

ROMANS: Right.

SAMBOLIN: You're absolutely right.

WALSH: They don't believe it can happen in the Hamptons, they don't believe it can happen in Beverly Hills. They don't believe --

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: The difficult but necessary conversation to have. I want to ask you to hang on here for a moment. Don't leave us. We're going to bring in Julio Castro. He is the Uncle of the Castro brothers who are in police custody suspected of kidnapping these young women.

Sir, thank you for joining us today. Can you tell us your reaction when you heard that your three nephews are in police custody?

JULIO CASTRO, UNCLE OF SUSPECTS IN CLEVELAND KIDNAPPING CASE: The reaction was a terrible reaction. Those are real big -- unbelievable.

SAMBOLIN: Ariel Castro, in particular, can you tell us a little bit about him?

CASTRO: He grew up as a nice, beautiful, happy kid. He was a musician. He loved to play the instruments. He loved happy life. He came from a good family. I'm sure he was raised right. The only thing is that he might have been living a double personality.

ROMANS: Did he have a family? Did he have children? I mean we know he had a son. We've heard maybe he had a daughter. Tell me about Ariel Castro's family.

CASTRO: Yes, he had a beautiful family. However, he had differences with his wife some years ago. They separated. She went to live in another state. And I understand she passed. But the family was always beautiful.

SAMBOLIN: Mr. Castro when was the last time that you saw Ariel that you spoke with him?

CASTRO: I would say between five or six years that he used to come to my place of business on the corner. He was a very happy-go-lucky guy.

ROMANS: Julio Castro, thank you so much for joining us and trying to give a shed some light I guess on what's happening here.

I want to bring in John Walsh again. I mean you've heard an uncle of the three men who are in police custody. He came from a nice family, haven't spoken with him in a few years. You know he was a decent guy. He's got children but --

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: I do want to add that there was the neighbor Mr. Lugo who we spoke to earlier. And he said that his wife said to him don't leave the children alone around Ariel Castro; that there was a gut feeling that she had. So kind of these two sides -- these two different people that we're looking at here. What -- what's your take on that, John?

WALSH: You know, about a year ago you were covering Jerry Sandusky --

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

WALSH: -- who molested multiple boys, picked kids from inner cities from dysfunctional families. No one wanted to believe that he was a child molester, that he was a pedophile, that he was doing it in plain sight. He was taking disadvantaged children into the locker room and sodomizing them at 11:00 at night.

He was fired from his job, people suspected it in his charity. And it didn't come out until finally one 16-year-old boy was brave enough to say this is not the revered coach that you think he is. He's a pedophile. He's good at it. He's a sociopath.

And then ten other guys came out, grown men. And people just go, oh, my God. They function, they are good guys. But I'll tell you what; guys like this guy hate women. If they have been in divorce, they look at women as sex toys. They're going to get even as a possession they don't -- they weren't raised -- they don't have the same philosophies that good men like I was taught to respect women and to love women and to shelter them and look out for them.

These -- these guys are sociopaths. They look at women -- I'll bet he and his two brothers thought, isn't this unbelievable? We have our own sex toys tied up. Nobody knows they are there. We go on with our lives. Aren't we having great fun? Never thinking about the consequences, never thinking about the families -- this is a sociopathic behavior that people can't wrap their heads around.

ROMANS: John Walsh we're waiting right now for this press conference to begin. We're going to learn a lot more about these suspects. We know that the three young women have been returned to their families. John Walsh, thank you so much. We're back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: All right, that's it for STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

Carol Costello has NEWSROOM special live coverage of the Cleveland Department of Public Safety news conference at 9:00 a.m. Eastern updating us on the three kidnapped Ohio women who had been found.